I'm on LinkedIN, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Meetup. I've got this blog. (Like, duh.) I'm a contributor to another blog. I'm blogrolled on scads of blogs. You can reach me by cellphone, text, or send a missive to one of 4 email addresses. I've got a BlackBerry on which I can check my email, instant messages, texts and voice mail. I'm the postergirl for connectivity.
Seems like every day, there's a new way to hook up, converse, waste time, share a few laughs or rage against the machine. When it comes to communication, it's great to be so instantly gratified, and so often. But what I want to know is: when is it ever enough?
Had a conversation with a girlfriend/ex-colleague the other day; she's one of my professional references and we were discussing the possible impendingness of calls from the latest shops I've interviewed with. She's doing jury duty this week, but, according to her, she's got five different emails, call forwarding (didn't that go out with the 80's?), voice mail, and all manner of other entrées - "Just so you know - they can reach me anywhere. And if they don't, my BlackBerry will ping me to let me know I have to call them back." I jokingly asked her if she thinks she's got enough ways to communicate. (This was in an IM by the way.) Suddenly, her tapping fell silent. The screen remained barren of response. I realized I had hit a nerve.
A couple of hours ago, the same friend pinged me on IM - but this time, it was an invitation to video chat. I hate what the camera in my computer does to my face and neck. I'm not ugly, but you'd never know it looking at me on video chat. Still, it's rude not to respond when invited...
The great tsunami of reachability; it's seemingly unstoppable. I'm reminded of a scene from "Bus Stop" where Beau, the jerky cowboy, lassoes a runaway Cherry (played to perfection by Marilyn Monroe). "Whenever I wanted something," he yells out as his declaration of love, "I just went out and GOT it."
Is that what's at the bottom of all this connectivity? Do we have to have that sense of contact - no matter what and damn the consequences? Does having tons of followers on Twitter mean you're finally in with the popular kids? Is a bursting-at-the seams email-box a reliable indicator of your desirability? Those people who turn on their phones the second the plane touches down, and then see that in the last 5 hours, they've received upwards of ten voice mails - who ARE those people anyway? When I turn my phone on after a flight, it just sits there in my hand, sullen and empty. Not so with my email; I get a lot of it. I comment on several blogs a day, and people reciprocate on mine. I tweet with regularity; one could (and does) spend an entire afternoon communing with one's fellow Twitterers. If I'm feeling the need for culinary inspiration, I check in at BakeSpace - a kind of MySpace for foodies. And throughout all of it, I'm pinged on IM, conservatively speaking, upwards of 2 dozen times a day. A recent study showed that every time someone is distracted, it takes about an hour to get back to their original task. That means I'm trying to get back on task - 24 hours a day.
Don't get me wrong: I love all this chatting, pinging and posting. But there are times when I want, like Cherry, to run away from it. Far, far away from it. And once you drop out of the hook-o-sphere, it takes a remarkably short period of time for all your contacts to forget about you. GOD FORBID THAT SHOULD HAPPEN! So I keep running on the hamster wheel, putting up posts and throwing out quotables, while musing about what life was like before we could drive a car and talk on a telephone at the same time.
A dear friend recently ditched his 30 year stint in L.A. for the woods of upstate New York. I imagine it must be so refreshing to have nature and quiet, blessed quiet, enveloping your days and nights. He's even working for a little newspaper there, and having a blast doing it. My guess is his email and voicemail are manageable these days. He blogs, but only when he wants to. And I don't believe he Tweets. Ever. I know I could take a page from his book, but I'm still not ready to step into the cone of silence. And that, I guess, is what is at the heart of the age of connectivity.
Fear. Of. Silence.
If we were to stop the noise, we'd have to listen to our hearts. But what if there's nothing there? What if our hearts are empty? I mean, I think mine isn't - but is it as full as it could have been say, twenty years ago? There's a condition I had back then that I have not encountered in years. It's called Boredom. But out of boredom came action, and out of action came relationships, and out of relationships came friendship, love and satisfaction. Usually of the face-to-face kind.
So, I'm thinking I could use a little quiet. A little contemplation. And yes, a little boredom. I'm going to conduct an experiment. What would happen if I were to take TWO DAYS OFF from all the incoming? What if any time I feel myself yearning towards the computer or BlackBerry, unless it's something to do with family, I resist? I guess I'll find out. I won't Tweet, don't ask me. I won't compulsively read blogs. I won't leave voicemails. I won't blog. I will tuck myself away in the cave of quietude. And I will pay attention to what it does to me. Because I do anticipate a certain amount of jonesing with this... this... what is it called? Is there no name for it? Hmmm, how about techno-bortion? Yeah, that sounds about right.
I'll report back from the solitude in two days. And I'm already wondering what comments will be waiting for me........